TPM News

Following up on Elana's post about the Waxman-Markey legislation, I just got off a conference call with Ed Markey himself and Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the climate change process. The goal, Pelosi said, was to have the bill passed by July--but she conceded that the goal, and the separate task of bringing Republicans aboard, will be a challenge.

The plan the Democrats put forward is pretty ambitious, at least by the standards of the U.S. Congress, but that means much less coming from the House than it would from the Senate, which is the real choke point for all of this stuff. One way around that roadblock is, famously, the reconciliation process. But the authors of this legislation--no wilting violets, they--signed on to a letter to President Obama saying, "using the budget reconciliation process, which curtails Senate filibuster rights, could arouse regional distrust and make reaching agreement harder."

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The Democratic National Committee has just announced that they'll be taking a recent Web ad to television, attacking the GOP's "budget" -- which crashed after it became clear tat the unveiling that there were no actual numbers, just talking points.

The Web-ad-turned-TV-ad shows cable TV pundits ripping into the budget announcement -- indeed, the commentators seemed angry that the House Republicans were wasting everybody's time:

The DNC will be airing the ad on DC cable -- essentially making this an effort to boost the visibility of the attack among the Washington media set, going into the budget votes expected to take place this week.

It's Election Day today, in the special election for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat in upstate New York. Democratic candidate Scott Murphy may be the slight favorite -- a recent Siena poll gave him a four-point lead -- in a campaign that many outside observers originally thought could be a likely pick-up for the GOP. No matter which way it turns out -- we'll find out after the polls close at 9 p.m. ET -- expect it to be close.

Republican candidate Jim Tedisco, the state House minority leader, began this race two months ago with high name recognition, while Murphy was an unknown businessman making his first bid for office -- indeed, a Siena poll from a month ago put Tedisco ahead by 12 points. Both national parties have been actively involved with the race, with the NRCC spending over $800,000 and the DCCC putting in about $590,000 -- plus $820,000 from the National Republican Trust PAC for Tedisco, and $245,000 on Murphy's behalf from the SEIU Local 1199. Murphy himself has out-raised Tedisco's campaign, and in all the money spent is about even on each side, totaling roughly $5 million.

Among Democrats, the mood is generally one of cautious optimism, while Republicans are uncertain -- and of course, both sides are staying focused on their ground game. The bottom line here is that it's impossible to fully predict turnout in a special election -- it must be earned, vote by vote.

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House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) are rolling out their proposal to cut carbon emissions today, and early leaks of the plan suggest that the duo is prepared to ensure that the Obama administration is not the most liberal player in the climate change debate.

Waxman and Markey's bill will set targets of a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020, compared with Obama's proposed 15% cut, and an 83% reduction by 2050, a more ambitious goal than Obama's planned 80% trimming. This is more than just a numbers game: By moving the goalposts further left than the White House, the two House Democrats set the stage for a meaningful compromise on climate change ... but can it happen this year?

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Bobby Jindal's denunciations of federal spending to monitor volcanoes is now attracting some serious critcism from a Republican Senator -- namely Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, whose state has been recently disrupted by a series of eruptions from Mount Redoubt.

"Recently there were some comments made about federal spending for volcano monitoring being wasteful," Murkowski said from the Senate floor, without naming Jindal directly. "I can assure you that monitoring volcanoes is critically important to the nation and especially to my home state of Alaska."

In Jindal's speech, he said: "While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes ... $140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring.' Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC."

The massive eruptions from Mount Redoubt were serious enough to cancel all airport service in and out of Anchorage for several hours -- even though the city is about 100 miles away from the volcano. Memo to Bobby Jindal: "Volcano monitoring" in some parts of the country is not all that dissimilar from "hurricane monitoring" on the Gulf Coast.

Our long national nightmare is finally over (probably), and we may have an anonymous bureaucrat in the Office of Management and Budget to thank for it. Last week, it was reported that he (or she) sent a memo to the Pentagon suggesting that the White House had had enough with the term Global War on Terror (GWOT) and would henceforth prefer the term Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

Soon enough, though, reporters got wind of it and administration officials--OMB chief Peter Orszag and Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell--began walking the claim back.

But today, none other than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirms it: Whether a directive's been issued or not, the administration has dropped GWOT from its lexicon.

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The Obama administration signaled Monday that it would release Aymen Saeed Batarfi, a Yemeni prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay, as part of President Obama's promise to empty the controversial detention facility within a year. Batarfi's lawyers say he was arrested while on a humanitarian mission, but Justice Department prosecutors allege that he participated in a major al Qaeda battle as more than a humanitarian worker. (Associated Press)

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Poll: Americans Don't Blame Obama For Economy A new ABC/Washington Post poll finds the public agreeing with the Obama administration that it has inherited the problems it has to deal with. Only 26% of Americans think the Obama administration deserves blame for the current economic problems, compared to 80% who blame banks and businesses, 70% who blame the Bush administration, and 72% who blame consumers. President Obama's approval rating remains high at 66%, with 60% approval on the economy specifically.

Obama Going To London For G20, Biden In Washington President Obama and Michelle Obama are headed to the United Kingdom for the G20 summit. They left Washington early this morning, and will arrive in London in the evening. Vice President Biden is in Washington today, just back from his trip to Latin America, and will be planning an upcoming event of the Middle Class Task Force, and will make phone calls to House and Senate members to discuss the budget.

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The Feds are closing in on a criminal fraud case against Joseph Cassano, reports ABC News, which tracked down the former AIG Financial Products czar wearing blue spandex and a sheepish expression outside his home in London. And before you wonder why a Brooklyn College educated swaps dealer with a name like Joe Cassano lives in London again, the answer is probably "taxes" -- and decimating taxes, it may not shock you to know, is fast emerging as the cornerstone of the AIG business model.

An ABC News investigation found that Cassano set up some dozens of separate companies, some off-shore, to handle the transactions, effectively keeping them off the books of AIG and out of sight of regulators in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

"This is the other very important issue underneath the AIG scandal," said [tax law expert Jack] Blum. "All of these contracts were moved offshore for the express purpose of getting out from under regulation and tax evasion."
And as breathtaking as the sum of taxpayer dollars AIG has managed to put down in its post-crisis nationalized afterlife, the zombie insurer might possibly have indirectly scammed the government out of more money back in its Triple-A days. Today the Wall Street Journal explores AIG's euphemistically-named "tax structuring" business in a story about an IRS battle with Hewlett-Packard over an offshore entity -- or what the IRS terms a "sham that lacked economic substance and a business purpose" -- that AIG set up for the company to collect $132 million in tax credits. AIG's tax business, is "even bigger than the credit-default swaps business that led to the company's meltdown," a person "familiar with the business" tells the Journal. But that might be compartmentalizing things: we are beginning to suspect the credit default swap business and the tax "structuring" business were the same thing -- not just because they served the same end.

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A new Gallup poll finds Americans are closely divided on Tim Geithner's performance, with a large amount of undecideds, as well.

The numbers: Approve 42%, Disapprove 40%. Democrats approve at 61%, Republicans disapprove with 63%, and independents are nearly the same as the overall top-line numbers.

From the pollster's analysis: "It is not a good sign for Geithner, perhaps, that he receives significantly lower approval ratings than does his boss. In the same poll in which Geithner receives 42% approval, Obama receives a 64% approval rating (and a 30% disapproval rating)."